Colorado Trout Unlimited is organizing a rally, scheduled for this Thursday December 26th, where opponents of proposed plans to divert the vast majority of the Upper Colorado River's waterflow can voice their concerns. The plans in question, which are part of the long-proposed Windy Gap Firming project, would see up to 80 percent of the Upper Colorado River's water diverted to "firm up" water supplies for expected growth in Front Range residential development. The diverted water would supply the planned 270 million dollar Chimney Hollow Reservoir with water.
Proponents of the plan maintain that the project is the only way to meet the growing demand for water in Colorado's Front Range. 13 water providers are expected to see the communities they serve double their populations over the next several decades. Insuring that these providers have adequate water storage, advocates say, is the only way to insure that demand can be met during years of lean precipitation.
But detractors argue that the firming project doesn't adequately take into account the far-reaching impact of reducing the Upper Colorado's flows to 20 percent of their historic levels. Decreased water flows can be expected to lead to greater sedimentation and increased water temperatures, both of which can be expected to upset the ecological balance in the river. According to the web site of the Colorado Headwaters Initiative, "healthy mountain rivers are cold and clear, teeming with native fish and the insects they eat. Unhealthy rivers are warm, shallow, stagnant and devoid of native fish that once thrived there."
While groups like the Colorado Headwaters Initiative and Trout Unlimited are calling for a more detailed analysis of the firming project's impacts as well as the implementation of steps to protect the river in the wake of project, some opponents are more sharply critical, calling the project unnecessary. Gary Wockner, director of Save the Poudre, was quoted earlier this month in the Coloradoan, stating that “it is intolerable to further drain and destroy Colorado’s rivers in order to subsidize growing bluegrass for three months per year in sprawling, unmanaged suburbs in Colorado’s semi-desert.”